News and Commentary

ADAMS: The Syllabus Is A Living Breathing Document

Many of my colleagues in academia insist that the U.S. Constitution is a “living, breathing document.” Many have adopted that view in order to justify Roe v. Wade. Ironically, this means that their living constitution has produced a lot of death. But that doesn’t seem to matter to them. Most of my colleagues are avowed Marxists so no amount of human bloodshed can convince them of the wrongheadedness of their political positions.

Of course, my colleagues’ wrongheaded view of the Constitution is not new. Nor is it unique to angry and embittered academics teaching antiquated economic theories. Even some Supreme Court Justices have espoused the concept of a “living constitution.” For example, Thurgood Marshall did it quite often in his later years as he became increasingly embittered toward his country.

Reason alone should be enough to convince these “living constitution” advocates that they are espousing a very dangerous idea. For those who are not aware of the exact meaning of the term they seek to legitimize, a “living constitution” can be described roughly as follows:

A legal document whose words have no fixed meaning and can be altered (without being formally amended) in order to meet the needs of each successive generation.

A few pointed questions should be enough to help people grasp the danger of this concept. For example:

*What if the requirement that “no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause” comes to mean something like “no warrants shall issue but upon an inkling of suspicion?” Or perhaps “no warrants” could come to mean “some warrants.”

*What if the right to privacy that is said to protect a woman’s right to an abortion eventually evolves into meaning that a man can beat his wife as long as he does it within the confines of his own home? The Court has already found that the right to privacy includes a right to read otherwise illegal obscenity as long as it remains within the confines of the home, so who’s to say it won’t “evolve” into something more egregious.

*What if the infamous “mystery passage” from Planned Parenthood v. Casey continues to evolve – sort of like those evolving standards of decency that keep changing the meaning of the Eighth Amendment? Imagine that the woman’s liberty interest in defining an unborn child out of existence eventually expands so that men can also define other humans out of existence in their pursuit of liberty?

The possibilities are endless once we come to see words like “privacy,” “abortion,” and “same-sex marriage” simply popping up out of thin air and embedding themselves in a document that was previously assumed to be dead.

But that is enough of the rational thinking. Proponents of the living constitution theory do not think rationally. Accordingly, they need to suffer the consequences of their bad ideas in order to see the light. So, college students, here are two questions I propose asking all of your professors at the beginning of each and every semester:

  1. On the first day of class, ask your professor whether she thinks the constitution is a “living, breathing document.” If the professor says “yes,” then move on to the next question.
  2. Next, ask whether the course syllabus is also a “living, breathing document.”

This could go one of two ways. Follow Plan A if the professor answers question #2 in the affirmative. Follow Plan B if the professor answers question #2 in the negative.

Plan A. Simply refuse to follow the professor’s course rules. For example, if the syllabus says the first research paper is due in September, then inform the professor that you read September to mean “April.” If the syllabus says you are granted three excused absences, then inform the professor that you read “three” to mean “unlimited.” Or just say that “excused” means something different to your generation. Let the professor know that getting drunk and sleeping late is excusable where you come from. (And that ending sentences with prepositions is also something the professor should put up with.)

If any of your professors push back with antiquated phrases such as “plain meaning,” then remind them of the following: Some words that you did not write in your syllabus emanate from various penumbras embedded within the document.

Plan B. Again, refuse to follow the professor’s course rules. When the professor takes action against you for a rule violation, remind her that prior to denying that the syllabus is a living document she said that the constitution is a living document. At this point, assert your position that the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment were really meant to protect people like you who believe in the notion of a living syllabus. Thus, you cannot be denied equal treatment simply because you read the syllabus differently than she does. And also remind her that you are entitled to due process if any action is taken against you.

Don’t forget to file a formal grade complaint if the professor ignores your warning and decides to downgrade you for your evolving view of the syllabus. Get your friends to do the same thing – and make sure that they fully assert their right to an appeal if their grades should also suffer.

If your professors are dim-witted enough to continue espousing a “living constitution” theory then all is not lost. You will have taught an important constitutional lesson to some of your peers. Most are more intelligent than tenured leftists who believe that documents are living and unborn humans are not.

Mike S. Adams is a criminology professor, the author of Letters to a Young Progressive, and a columnist at Follow him on Twitter @MikeSAdams.

The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  ADAMS: The Syllabus Is A Living Breathing Document